Friday, June 18, 2010

Cambodia Govt aims for trade union law next year

A NEW law on trade unions could be sent to parliament by early next year, a Labour Ministry official said Thursday.

Oum Mean, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour, said a working group consisting of unions, employers and government officials is discussing the law with the aim of finalising a draft by the end of 2010.

“In early 2011, we will pass it to the Council of Ministers and to the National Assembly,” he said.

Union rules are currently governed by the 1997 Labour Law.

A draft of the law obtained by the Post contains 17 chapters, detailing guarantees on workers’ rights to form and join unions, rules on how unions should be governed and guidelines on collective bargaining.

In comparison, the articles covering unions in the existing Labour Law are largely contained in a single chapter.

Moeun Tola, the head of the labour programme at the Community Legal Education Centre, said there are positive elements to the draft law. But he is also concerned that some aspects may give authorities too much power over unions.

The current draft law, he noted, demands that unions submit detailed financial information, including funding sources, to the Ministry of Labour.
Failure to do so could lead the ministry to suspend a union’s registration status.

“It seems like the Ministry of Labour is trying to control the union movement,” he said.

Sandra D’Amico, vice president of the Cambodian Federation of Employers and Business Associations, said that although she has not read the draft law in detail, a trade union law would represent a “milestone” for industrial relations in the Kingdom.

“We hope that the law will help the trade union movement in Cambodia consolidate and be more unified and accountable for their actions,” she said.

Employers see the sheer number of unions currently operating as a barrier to positive workplace relations. There were 237 unions operating last year in the garment sector alone, an ILO report found in October – almost one for every factory open at the time.

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